Writing Songs For Other Artists

by Marty Dodson
Jan 12, 2017

The final mental hurdle for most writers that are chasing that first cut is a tall one. Moving from the idea of trying to write a great song to the idea that they are writing words to put in someone else’s mouth. Writing songs for other artists to sing.

In essence, commercial songwriters are speechwriters trying to craft words that sound natural and believable coming out of an artist’s mouth.

Trying to craft a speech that is natural and believable requires the songwriter to know the artist intimately. For instance, I recently mentored someone who played me a song that sounded EXACTLY like something Miranda Lambert would record from a musical perspective. However, the song was about a woman who had been rejected by her man and she was sitting home on a Friday night eating a TV dinner.

I told the writer that she had succeeded beautifully on the musical side, but failed on the lyric side. She responded, “I thought she’d like this because she’s going through a divorce.” While it was true that Miranda was going through a divorce, the problem was that no one would believe that Miranda’s response to going through a divorce would be to stay home and mope. In real life, she might do that, but her persona is the tough chick that bounces back and makes a man pay for leaving her. Miranda’s “brand” is a tough, resilient woman. Any song she sings is going to ring true for that kind of person.

I can’t count the times that I have suggested in classes or mentoring sessions that the more you know about the artists you are writing for, the better your chances of writing something they would record.

Not many people follow that advice. I guess research is not the most “fun” part of writing. But, the people who do follow the advice are moving rapidly toward their goal of getting a cut and those that don’t are continually saying “I just don’t understand why I’m not getting songs cut.”

Writing great songs is not enough.

You have to write great songs that fit an artist’s brand perfectly. When Kenny Chesney recorded my song “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven”, he said in an interview, “This song says EXACTLY what I believe and my audience believes. We want to go to heaven, but we want to have some fun while we are down here.” The song I wrote fit his brand and it sounds like something he would say when it comes out of his mouth. THAT is the key to writing a song that gets recorded.

Take some time and learn about an artist.

Read some recent interviews. Listen to the last couple of albums they have recorded. Check out their website. THEN, try to write a great song from that artist’s perspective.

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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